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7 Portfolio Tricks That Will Land You A Job

7 Portfolio Tricks That Will Land You A Job

    Layoffs. Downsizing. Transitions. It’s a scary time to be out in the job market. If you’re hunting for a job, you’ve probably been handing out resumes like crazy. The problem is that, when you really look at a resume, every single one is the same. They’re all on the same size of paper, easily shuffled into a stack, just the way human resource managers like them.

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    There’s just not a lot you can do to stand out with a resume: hiring managers have no qualms about tossing oddly-sized resumes, funny-smelling CVs and lengthy explanations about where you’ve been lately. No hard feelings about it — I did a stint in HR and I would do anything to get through that never-ending stack of resumes, even if it meant denying someone the opportunity for a job just because they had sprayed perfume on their resume.

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    There is a way to stand out without irritating the hiring manager, though: a portfolio. I mentioned fairly recently that a portfolio can go a long way in convincing a prospective employer, and that portfolios aren’t just for art students. You can have a portfolio in any career — if you paint houses, you can take photos of the work you’ve done. If you’re a software developer, you can take screenshots of your applications. No matter your field, though, there are a few ways to make your portfolio shine.

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    1. Put your portfolio online. If you email your portfolio as an attachment, no hiring manager will open it for fear of viruses. If you drop off a physical portfolio, every hiring manager will cringe at the thought of going through more paperwork. But if you simply email a link, you’ve actually got a chance of getting someone in human resources to click on it — after all, it’s just a link. It won’t take any time at all to click on it, and what’s the worst that could happen? So take the time to scan everything in. It’s worth your while.
    2. Don’t require any downloads. Don’t include PDFs, Word files or anything else that a prospective employer has to download and open. That goes double for executable files — apologies to all the fantastic developers out there, but employers would rather look at pretty screenshots than try to figure out the software you created. This may mean that you will need to take the time to ‘improve’ a project that you did quite awhile again: maybe you’ll need to add some HTML to a written document.
    3. Organize your portfolio. You don’t need to alphabetize your projects or anything like that, but it should be easy for prospective employers to figure out what to click. That means no fancy flash, no unlabelled links. As a quick litmus test, try sitting Grandma down in front of your portfolio / website. If she can’t figure out where to click, it’s guaranteed that there is an HR manager out there who will be equally lost.
    4. Add context. Write labels and descriptions for the items you’re including in your portfolio. A memo that solved a crisis at your last job may not impress a prospective employer if they don’t recognize the effect it had. Descriptions are also an opportunity to toot your own horn — you can talk about the problems you encountered and the skills you used. No matter how polished the items in your portfolio, though, your descriptions should be equally polished. Consider them a writing sample and an opportunity to show off those great communication skills that every employer requires.
    5. Focus your portfolio. Even if you’re a salesman / graphic designer / clog dancer, your portfolio doesn’t need to reflect that. Instead, you should focus on the job you’re actually going for. You can create separate portfolios for each of your career paths, but focus on what you really want to do next, not what you’ve done in the past.
    6. Go for the multimedia. Not all job skills can be expressed in writing or through photographs. Out to prove your sales skills? Maybe a few graphs showing how you improved sales are your best bet. Looking for a career as a mascot? A video of you working the crowd is bound to impress more than a picture of you standing around in costume. It’s your portfolio: you set the rules on what sort of media you want to include.
    7. Get your own domain name — or not. If you’re planning to maintain your portfolio in the long run (which can be a good thing even if you’re planning to stay with your new job for the long haul), sure, getting your own domain name is a good idea. But using one of the many sites that allow you to post samples of your work is also a good option. Say you’re an interior decorator. Your prospective boss won’t care if you can maintain a website. Focus on taking high quality photos of your work, and post them to Flickr. Your portfolio can be that easy. Just beware of user names that seem brilliant at 3 AM.

    As a rule, I try to limit my portfolio to projects I’ve actually completed at others’ requests. As awesome as I think some of my more personal work is, it hasn’t been through anything close to the critical process that something I’ve done for hire has. But if you’re looking for a few items to pad your portfolio, volunteer your services. Your work will still go through a critical process, but you don’t have to find a job just to improve your chances of getting another job.

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    Last Updated on August 16, 2018

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system”.

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    The power of habit

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being six hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The wonderful thing about triggers (reminders)

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to make a reminder works for you

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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